Don’t be afraid of races |

Don’t be afraid of races

In over three decades of running, I’ve come across all sorts of runners, including a surprising number who either don’t want to race at all or are scared of running their first race.

Then there are those who don’t think they are good enough to run a race or aren’t sure they can do it and might embarrass themselves.

My theory: If you can run, you can race.

You may not win the race. You may not place in your age group, but you can run and finish the race if you’ve run the race distance in a workout. You know it’s true. You’ve gone the distance.

And each race after that gives you the opportunity to improve, which is a very rewarding aspect of working out on a regular basis. A reward that keeps you motivated to keep getting out there.

Doesn’t matter how fast or how slow you are.

Hardly anyone wins their first race.

Wherever you start is fine, and it provides a benchmark for future comparison.

Races might seem intimidating from the outside if you’ve never done one, but in reality, in most cases, there are runners of all abilities, from fast to slow, to those that walk part of the race.

Just like there is only one person who wins the race, there is only one who is last.

Yet even finishing last can be rewarding.

I’ll never forget a few years back, at the Spring Run in Nevada City, when the awards were given out, the man who won the over 70 age group while finishing last overall in the race, came up to accept his award, and made a great and memorable comment (something to the effect of):

“Running is so great because it may be the only sport where you can finish last and still win.”

I love racing.

It’s a rush and a great feeling of accomplishment when it all comes together and a goal is met. Some days you even surprise yourself, doing better than you thought you would.

A race is a performance and the stage is the race course (or track).

In some ways, runners are like rock stars. We practice and strive to improve, so we can go out on our stage and perform. Sure, fans don’t pay to see us run (in most cases), but nevertheless we are out there in the public eye, putting forth our best effort, competing against the weather, the course, the clock, the other runners, and ultimately, ourselves.

This time of year, there are plenty of racing opportunities.

This Saturday, Oct. 2, there are three events, a 5K, 10K and half mile kids’ run in Folsom on a nice course on mostly paved bike trails. See or call 916-355-7366 for more information.

On Sunday, Oct. 17, William Land Park in Sacramento will host the 24th Annual Zoo Zoom, which benefits the Sacramento Zoo and features 5K, 10K and kids’ run choices on very flat and fast courses. More info can be obtained at or by calling 916-443-6223.

The Sunday after, Oct. 24, Nevada City will be the site for the 13th Annual Run Through the Colors 5 and 10K races. Although much hillier (think going up Nevada Street from Pioneer Park and down Broad Street near the finish), these races tend to be more low key and are excellent opportunities to get your feet wet if you are new to racing. Friendly competition and a friendly atmosphere. More info is available from Race Directors Richard and Theresa Thomas by e-mail ( or phone, 265-2666.

Then there is Run to Feed the Hungry on Thanksgiving Day at Sac State in Sacramento. Personally, I very much look forward to this event every year as the course is flat, fast and certified (accurate distance). Race Director Rich Hanna does an amazing job considering the turnout. Last year the runners of the 5 and 10K totaled more than 14,000. And talk about atmosphere! All those runners there to both celebrate Thanksgiving “together” and contribute their entry fees to the Sacramento Food Bank to feed the homeless. It really is an event to remember and fun and inspiring to be part of (despite the crowds, or maybe because of!) each and every year. More information can be found online at

So don’t worry. There are no expectations at your first race except for your own. Start without pressure and have fun. Blend into the pack. You will still feel that undercurrent of excitement, the electricity of the event. And you are part of it. You belong.

There are few runners who, once they have run their first race, don’t come back for more.

If you see me at any of these races, please say hello. I can promise I will genuinely welcome you and thank you for coming and joining the family.


Steve Bond lives in Grass Valley and is a competitive runner who writes column and feature stories about running for The Union. He may be reached via e-mail at

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